Something has been bugging me. The something is “perfection” or more acurately “perceived perfection.” A friend and I were chatting about social media, and we were sharing our opinions about how easy it is to put only a complimentary view of ourselves on Facebook and other social sites. We both agreed that we don’t “air our dirty laundry” on social media or anyplace else, for that matter. Nope. Dirty laundry stays where it belongs: at home. Even when I have a complaint about life I try to keep it to myself. I don’t always succeed. But really, you have your own struggles to deal with, why would I burden you, my Gentle Reader, with mine?
That thought reminds me of when I was a young(er) home schooling mom, and I was subscribing to this magazine that had in it a feature called “A Day at Our House.” The editors invited subscribers to send in a “real” hour-by-hour account of a “typical” day at their house. 95% of the time, the published day went something like this:
“5:30 a.m.: I arose with the birds, and discovered that my darling husband, the Cardiologist, cooked sausages, whole-grain pancakes and fresh-squeezed orange juice for breakfast! (Again!) Had our daily devotional together over coffee before he left for his rounds, and then went out to run my usual 5-miles before settling in for a cozy day of schooling with my children! Can’t wait!”
“7:00 a.m.: The kids have done their chores–the laundry is finished, the beds are made, the dusting is done, and the house is freshly-vacuumed. We are ready to hit the books! We’ll start with French. Our 3-year-old is learning verb conjugations in French and Latin, so that’s where we’ll start!”
“8:00 a.m.: It’s time for music practice! Gerielle is becoming quite proficient on the lute, and Caroline will practice her harp. Little Jeremy does his practice in the basement–drums, the little scamp! Four-year-old Jett has just started the violin, and I’ll pull out my viola and work with him. Bobby is working on his Mozart Sonata, so he’ll be on the piano for the hour. Our home simply rings with music!”
“9:30 a.m. Time for science! We’re building a lifesize replica of a Brontosaurus in the back yard! We did some research at the science museum yesterday and I think we are prepared to shape the head today. How sweet that my dear Cardiologist husband had time to whittle the teeth for our dinosaur yesterday–I think he got the spatulate shapes of the teeth just right! Nobody would pick this fellow to be an omnivore, no! It’s simply amazing what one can do with chicken wire and newspaper!! The man from the newspaper is coming today to take photos, and the neighbors burst into applause every time they see us. I love home schooling!”
Okay. I’m not exaggerating–much. It was unbelievable, the accounts of those supermoms. I still blanch at the thought of how intimidated I was by these articles. I was younger then (cough) and vulnerable to making comparisons, so after awhile I stopped reading that magazine. I didn’t renew it when it expired. I just couldn’t handle it. Maybe that kind of an account would serve to inspire you, Gentle Reader, or to give you some wonderful new ideas.
As for me, it just made me feel like a failure. I had a houseful of needy little ones at the time, and I had a baby and a toddler to watch over, while trying to guide my older kids in their schooling. And my dear, long-suffering husband was going to grad school (full-time) and working a job an hour away (full-time). There is absolutely no way I could measure up, in my mind, with those exceptional women who were able to do so much. I could only suffer and pale in comparison.
I actually was going to write my own “Day at our House” article to send in to that magazine, only I was going to choose a painfully horrid day–a real one, mind you–but not a picture perfect, things-going-as-planned, applause-from-the-neighbors day. I reckoned it would do everybody a lot of good–there had to be other moms besides me who read those perfect accounts and felt like foolish, undisciplined dunderheads because of them.
“7:36–Yikes! I was up with the baby thirty times during the night. He had a diaper blowout in our bed and all the bedding is soaked, not to mention our pajamas. Bryan left for work two hours ago. He forgot his lunch. I can’t believe it’s morning. It’s raining. I hear screaming. Apparently the cat snuck in to the boys’ room and has taken off with one of the gerbils. Again.”
I have heard from younger women, lately, who look at my beautiful (they are beautiful) children and make mumbled comments about how perfect my kids are. Usually these are women with children younger than mine, children still cutting teeth and not sleeping well at night and perhaps throwing the occasional temper tantrum and whatnot, and my heart goes out to these young women. I have been there. I almost always choke on something when I hear somebody say this. My eyes redden. My heart starts racing. I look behind me, wondering if they are addressing somebody else. Because my children are not perfect.
(No offense, kids.)
Each one of them is flawed, just as their mother is. (And certainly their dad, as well–ha!) We are all victims of the fall; we’re all loaded with faults and foibles and our share of rotten days and disappointments. Sure, my kids clean up pretty well (most of the time) for the public, but they’re entirely real at home. Real, real, real. In other words: not perfect. Each one of us has bad days and bad attitudes from time to time. Sometimes those bad attitudes last for days–months–at a time. (Sigh.) They are all a work in progress, as am I.
“8:48. I’d been chasing that stupid cat through the neighborhood for nearly an hour, the poor gerbil in its mouth, when I realized that I was still wearing my pajamas–the really ratty ones that I used once to clean up a paint spill?–and that all five of the kids were following me in their ratty pajamas. Darn. It must be a holiday, too. Everybody is outside in their yards. It’s still raining. Of course. I think the neighbor who has always asked me about how I expect the kids to be socialized without public school has called the police on us.”
So I got this idea. I thought it might be good for everybody if I wrote this post, and opened up the topic of this problem of perceived “perfection.” I wondered if it might help somebody to hear about how imperfect my life is. Hopefully it won’t discourage anybody.
“9:45. We couldn’t find Timothy so we spent some time looking for him. We finally trudged home and found him on the front porch. Playing with matches. The police officer was there, too, to check out the report of ‘truant children running amok in the neighborhood.’ Ugh. Worst morning ever. I really, really need a shower and none of us has had breakfast yet. Forgot to go to the store and the bread is moldy. The gerbil died.”
I tell you, Gentle Reader, I have been positively giggling over this idea all day long. I’ve been taking lots of pictures, too. It’s painfully easy to find imperfection at our house to snap pictures of. It’s everywhere. (Although I won’t subject you to the worst of it, and you’re welcome for that. The inside of the microwave oven. The pantry downstairs. And so forth.)
“11:30. There’s no food in the house and the laundry is piled up so high that nobody can find underwear, so we headed to Mickey D’s for a fast food lunch–maybe tomorrow we can start eating better, when we have more time–must buy lentils!!–and then we’ll stop at Wal-Mart for new underwear, all around. While eating our McNuggets, the baby had another diaper blowout and little Bethie was holding her–they both had it running down their legs and then Timothy started gagging and he lost his lunch. He has always had a weak stomach like his mother, bless him. Everybody started crying. Even me. The manager begged us to leave with a bag of fried pies. I burned my mouth on a cherry pie.”
So I thought it might be timely to suggest a truce all around. There are a few moms whom I look at wistfully, thinking that they have it all together, unlike me. I realize that this isn’t fair. I know their houses are clean and orderly and they have nutritious, organic lentil-filled meals on the table every night, their children are winning academic awards left and right and they run thriving home businesses in their spare time. They have beautiful knitting projects at hand, at all times. Conversely, I know there are young women who look to me and think that I have it all together (bless their hearts, the sweet, deluded young things). Here’s my idea: I’ll stop looking at the “supermoms” around me, thinking their lives are perfect, and I’ll expect the deluded younger moms to stop looking at me, expecting the same thing.
Because baby, there’s no perfection around here. Just a yearning to be pleasing to God, to get a few things done off the endless to-do list, to perhaps get to the bottom of the laundry basket for once. To keep everybody fed and progressing in learning and in life. We’re all in this together, chickies, let’s just pull for each other.
“2:07. I forgot the eggs I had on the stove boiling when we left for lunch, and they made a lot of smoke when they boiled dry. Also, they all exploded in my kitchen, one by one, apparently. A neighbor called the fire department, and they broke the front door lock when they forced themselves in. The kitchen is a mess of exploded eggs and smoke. But we’re finally home and everybody is lined up for the shower, with new underwear in hand, at least. Gosh, I wish we had a second bathroom but oh well. It’ll take a bit of time to get all six of us through the shower and dressed. I’ve got the first load of laundry going, and I bought a few groceries so I’ll put some supper in the crock pot and maybe we’ll get to the schoolbooks yet today, after all–after we clean up the kitchen, that is. I did stop at the pet store to get Matthew another gerbil, and now Andrew is upset because he wants a gerbil, too. Bryan called to ask how the day was going. I couldn’t talk. I just started crying.”
I went on quite a bit longer than I meant to with this post, but that’s one of my foibles–I can go on too long. Does it not encourage you, Gentle Reader, to get a glimpse of just how imperfect things are at my house? I do hope so.
So as I try to relax in my imperfection, I hope you will, too. Have a blessed–and a blessedly imperfect–day!!
(Now it’s time to clean up that kitchen counter.)
More from my site
- “No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn.”
- Helping Philippa lay her egg: an egg-binding adventure